How to spot scam artists impersonating the IRS

To protect yourself, request an identity protection PIN from the IRS.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Tax scams come in all forms, but the purpose is always the same.

Criminals are trying to get your financial and personal information, so here's what you need to know.

"People need to realize that the IRS never initiates contact by text message, email, or social media.They actually still initiate contact the old-fashioned way through the US Postal Service," said Chuck Minnich, owner of Foundation Capital Management, LLC.

The IRS will not initiate contact with a phone call either. Even if your caller ID says "IRS," beware.

"The person on the other side will tell you that you're either due for a large refund or you owe taxes," said Minnich.

If you don't provide your bank account information or promise to pay up, bogus threats often follow.

"Generally from supposedly law enforcement, threatening arrest, license revocation, or even deportation," he said.

Another red flag is if someone claims to be from the IRS and demands payment in a very specific form.

"For instance, they won't say you have to pay your taxes with a credit card. They certainly will never say anything like you have to pay your taxes with a gift card," said Steve Carlson of T-Mobile.

If you feel like you're on a scam phone call, hang up immediately.

"You don't want the scammers to be recording your voice," said Carlson. "And if they record you answering yes or no questions, they'll turn around and use that recording to try to validate you for other things."

Tax filing fraud is also on the rise. That's where someone uses your name and social security number to get the IRS refund owed to you.

To protect yourself, request an identity protection PIN from the IRS.

"It's basically a six-digit code that only you and the IRS know, and you use that when you file, and that's how they verify your identity," said Minnich.

Also, watch out for fake tax preparers.

"Want to ask for their preparer tax ID number. And here too, you can take that and go to the IRS site and look them up and make sure they're legitimate," he said.

It doesn't mean they're competent, but at least you'll know they're legitimate.

If you ever get a scam call, report the number to your carrier. It will add that number to its database to shield other customers from getting scammed.

T-Mobile's Scam Shield

AT&T ActiveArmorSM

Verizon Account Security

How to report tax scams to IRS

Reporting scams to the US Dept. of Treasury

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